A Faith Promoting Rumor–or not

The Juvenile Instructor was an official periodical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) between 1901 and 1930. It was first published in 1866 as a private publication. In 1930, the LDS Church replaced it with The Instructor.

The Juvenile Instructor was issued monthly from 1866 and was initially targeted primarily at the children and youth members of the LDS Church. It consisted of catechisms on the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; musical compositions; illustrations; stories; editorial teachings; and other aids to gospel instruction. It was the first magazine for children published in the United States west of the Mississippi River.[1]

For much of its history, The Juvenile Instructor was owned by the Cannon family. Its first editor was George Q. Cannon, an apostle of the church. Cannon and his family continued to publish the magazine privately until January 1, 1901, when the Deseret Sunday School Union purchased the magazine and continued its publication as its official organ. Between 1901 and 1930, the magazine was considered the official publication of the LDS Church’s Sunday School.

Between 1881 and 1890, an assistant editor of The Juvenile Instructor was George Reynolds, who wrote a series of popular articles in the magazine about Joseph Smith, Jr. and the translation of the Book of Mormon in 1882.


Interestingly enough, this is one of the “treasures” Birdman found in the attic of our very old house, when he was trying to discover the root of a nasty leak. It is a December 1891 edition of The Juvenile Instructor. JA wonders if it is antique porn. With that name, one WOULD wonder, but it is not. JI was published by George Q. Cannon & Sons, which was eventually sold to the LDS Church at the end of Cannon’s life, in the early 1900s. It became today’s Deseret Book.

In early 1866 George Q. Cannon published the first issue of Juvenile Instructor magazine. Dated January 1, it was not distributed until later because of problems procuring paper in Utah Territory before completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Printed on the Deseret News press, the 8-page bi-monthly magazine was the first serial publication in Utah aimed toward youth. Cannon also organized the Deseret Sunday School Union, an LDS Church organization responsible for educating young Latter-day Saints. The Sunday School Union gained control of the Juvenile Instructor after Cannon died in 1901.

Cannon opened the George Q. Cannon & Sons bookstore in 1867 to sell this and other publications of an uplifting nature. Cannon perceived that novels taken across the plains did not reflect Latter-day Saint values. In the 1880s, Cannon expanded with a branch in Ogden, Utah.

It’s not known how many books Cannon & Sons actually published. In this era authors commonly self-published, at least in part, to be distributed by others. However, the Cannon & Sons distributed several important volumes through bookstores and mail order (see table).

The company had extensive ties to the LDS Church-owned newspaper, the Deseret News. Five of Cannon’s sons held important positions in the paper, and George Q. Cannon himself was editor between 1867 and 1872, and again while temporarily owning the paper from 1892 to 1898. Nearly every George Q. Cannon & Sons book was printed on the Deseret News press. Cannon sold the bookstore to the LDS Church effective October 1, 1900, near the end of his life. The church grouped management of the two businesses, and the remaining Salt Lake City bookstore became the Deseret News Bookstore.

What we have is a not-very-well-preserved, but quite fascinating artifact from early Mormon history.

There is no mention of white salamanders in this magazine, at least so far as we can see, so crazed forgers are not encouraged to contact us about this little treasure. Or bring bombs to our house. While it is not anything we didn’t already know, it certainly spotlights the difference between today’s mainstream LDS Church, and the “Church” that Joseph Smith founded.

Most noticeable, of course, is the “polygamy” issue.

Today’s young Mormons, including Mormon missionaries, will argue with you that Mormons NEVER practiced polygamy. I find this hard to fathom, as we grew up with tours of the Brigham Young House in SLC, where the nice little old lady would tell us which wife lived in which room, etc. In our day, they didn’t have an official biography of Brigham Young which only mentioned ONE wife. We heard about ALL of them, and how polygamy was a necessary thing because there were  more men than women.

Of course, that theory has been shot down, too.

Times and Seasons, a “place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints,” has some interesting information from one of the issues of the JI.

But what our little “treasure” holds, we are not yet sure. I am interested to see what it says about polygamy, if anything at all.

Today’s Church is not the religion in which I was raised. We were told to embrace the term “peculiar people.” Today, the Church IS more concerned about being considered “mainstream.”

From the official LDS Website:

Representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often asked whether the Church is becoming more “mainstream” over time.

If the term “mainstream” means that Latter-day Saints are increasingly viewed as a contributing, relevant and significant part of society — particularly in the United States, where there are now some six million members — then, of course, the answer is “yes.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, founded in New York State in 1830 with just six members, is today the fourth largest church in the United States by independent estimates.

A far cry from “peculiar.”

From a 1972 article in the Ensign, the official LDS magazine:

There is much to be done, however, before Israel will be the “peculiar people” the Lord had in mind when he employed that term so long ago. In referring to themselves as a peculiar people, the Latter-day Saints tend to do so with certain theological concepts and religious customs in mind. Such things as the belief in an anthropomorphic deity, the preexistence, work for the dead, temple marriage, and the Word of Wisdom are cited as proof that we are a peculiar people.

While there is no denying that many of these precious principles are unique, still, they are but means to an end. Israel’s past history—both in Palestine and in America—is good evidence that, of themselves, doctrines, ordinances, and religious practices in general cannot produce a peculiar people. Believing that they did was a fallacy of the Pharisees that was frequently exposed by Jesus.

This article, in effect, claims that the residents of Israel will never be the “peculiar people” noted in The Bible, but the Mormons, oh yes, they will be.

Again, a far cry from “mainstream.”

What, then, is a peculiar people? The term itself is found only in the Bible. The Revised Standard Bible’s rendering, “my own possession,” reflects its true sense. A peculiar people is one whose relationship to God is out of the ordinary, who partake of his divine nature in a very special way. Jehovah said not only that Israel would be distinct from all other nations, but also that that distinction would lie in their moral and spiritual superiority. In other words, they would be a peculiar people because they were a holy people.

The apostle Peter reiterated Jehovah’s grand objective for Israel in his charge to the saints of his day: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9.)

Clearly, modern Israel becomes the Lord’s peculiar people only as it produces the fruits by which that people are to be known. But the whole is the sum of its parts. A city of Zion is the sum of the pure in heart. The practical question each Latter-day Saint must answer is not “Are we a peculiar people?” but “Am I a peculiar person?” The Inspired Revision of Matthew 5:13–14 [JST, Matt. 5:13–14] reads: “I give unto you to be the salt of the earth” and “I give unto you to be the light of the world.” (Italics added.) Jesus did not say that his disciples were salt and light; he charged them to become so.

Today’s Mormon Church is very, very far from the organization founded by Joseph Smith. Why Mormons take such umbrage at this still perplexes me. Because, in all honesty, the polygamists, Warren Jeffs and clan, Kingstons, and others, are living the religion the way Joseph Smith taught it: polygamy and all.

Now, you would think, or some would think, that somewhere in all of this, we should “re-find” our testimonies, thereby creating an AWESOME faith promoting rumor, or FPR.

I mean, for US, two apostates, to run across this early testament of Joseph Smith’s Church, surely has some significance. And if not, is there someone waiting outside our day, wanting to scoop it out of our faithless hands and whisk it away to safety.

It’s certainly interesting. And it’s given Birdman a lot of entertainment during a NOT so lovely situation–the leaking roof.

Stay tuned for further episodes, as we dry out the magazine, and try to read pieces of it.


About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
This entry was posted in Eventful things, FPRs. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Faith Promoting Rumor–or not

  1. momee says:

    Huh, my greatgrandparents were polygamists. Two wives, 21 children. when Utah became a state, my grandpa refused to abandan his 2nd family and consequently served time in the terriotorial prison, where Sugarhouse Park now is. Pleez.


    • Nelson says:

      I disagree with your statement that missionaries deny that we ever practiced polygamy. It was part of our past and the polygamy groups who profess to pratice the gospel that joseph smith restored really do not, because they claim to have continued revelation for the church and that is not something they would have as they are not the prophet therefore they could not recieve revaltion that pertains to the entire church. One can recieve revelation for their family and for those they have stewardship for only.


  2. Cele says:

    Where we have been is who were are.

    What modern day Mormon leaders have embraced is that moving into and being accepted in modern day American religious circles means they have to evolve – Mormonism has. What modern day Mormons have failed to see (time after time)is that by sweeping their past under the rug and denying their beginnings they have opened themselves up to further questions, derision and rejection. When their leaders hide the truth of their beginnings, when their teachers refute the truths of their past, and they youth are ignorant of fact and reasons for change the doors of ridicule are opened.


  3. Jenn says:

    Natalie, would it be ok with you if I linked this story over to the ex-mormon yahoo group? I think so many folks over there would love to read/know about this.



  4. Edward L. Fernstrom says:

    I agree with your sentiment, please include me on your Blog.
    Ed Fernstrom
    A fellow Mormon Apostae, I resigned my name from the rolls of the Church twenty four years ago.


  5. Carl says:

    Greetings Natalie! Found your new site – I imagine it might require some time getting used to the new format – old dog, new tricks kinda thing.

    New trends certainly emerging in Mormonville. Fun to watch. Even more fun to witness the changing doctrines of a false religion.



  6. Kathleen Jones says:

    Hey Natalie! I wondered what had happened to you!! Glad they posted this on the Yahoo list today!

    Keep it up, girl, good stuff!


  7. Edward L. Fernstrom says:

    Hi Natalie,
    I plan to read your books, any one that realizes they are, or have been trapped by the Mormons deserves an audience.


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